Blake's youthful associations, perhaps rich with memories of the lost bond with his brother Robert, were complemented by gatherings at the home of Linnell's patrons Charles and Elizabeth Aders. There Blake met Henry Crabb Robinson, who had written an article about Blake in 1811 for a German periodical and had discussed Blake's poems with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Late in 1825, Robinson began to record Blake's conversations, including gnomic observations uttered in all honesty, but in such a way as to perplex the audience. Robinson writes in his Reminiscences
that Blake said:
the most strange things in the most unemphatic manner, speaking of his visions
as any man would of the most ordinary occurances. ‘… I was Socrates’—and then as if he had gone too far in that—‘Or a sort of brother—I must have had conversations with him—So I had with Jesus Christ.’ … Concerning the imputed Divinity of Jesus Christ He answered—‘he is the only God’—but then he added—‘and so am I and so are you’. (Robinson in Bentley, Records
As in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
and the ‘Visionary Heads’, Blake again intertwined the profound and the playful.
Continued creativity, in spite of declining health, characterizes Blake's final years. He executed a separate etching/engraving of the Laocoön c
.1826, surrounding the famous Hellenistic sculpture with aphorisms on the unity of art and religion and the evils of money and empire. New customers for the Songs of Innocence and of Experience
led Blake to print and elaborately hand colour five copies in the last three years of his life. In the summer of 1824, long before the Job engravings were completed, Linnell commissioned an even larger project, the illustration of Dante's Divine Comedy
, which provided Blake an income of about £2 a week. He ‘applied himself to learning Italian’ (Gilchrist, 1.334) and produced 102 watercolours which, like the seven Dante engravings, remained incomplete at his death. Other endeavours cut short by mortality included twenty-nine watercolour illustrations to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
, begun in 1824, and an illuminated manuscript of Genesis.